Chris Langley, Inyo County film commissioner, usually presents a lively update on activity during semi-annual Board of Supervisors’ meetings. That was not so much the case last
week. The impacts of the COVID pandemic on the industry, but more so on staffing at the federal land management level, have slowed the permitting process to a relative snail’s pace, sending production companies to alternative sites.
The problems have impacted both Inyo and Mono counties, Langley said. What once
took days now takes weeks. He estimated nearly a million dollars have been lost to the local
economy with the reduction in filming just over the past six months. Langley cited several job
openings in the Inyo National Forest’s permitting offices as one source of the problem.
Ironically, “some people aren’t interested in living here; it’s too rural,” he said.
He and Alicia Vennos, his Mono County counterpart, had joint discussions with Forest
Service staff trying to resolve the situation, offering to help with the permitting process. “…the
team informed us they would have to take it back to their leadership team for further
consideration and that would take months,” Langley stated in his formal report.
One bright light in Langley’s report: the interim permitting agent determined that if the
crew and cast numbered less than 15 and there was no apparent potential resource damage,
filming could go ahead without a permit.
Also, the Amazon Original film “Encounter” is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
The movie crew occupied Lone Pine and other Owens Valley locations just over a year ago.
In terms of COVID, the production companies are taking extreme precautions. Langley
had his temperature taken and was handed a test kit when he showed up at an automotive
commercial shoot in the Alabama Hills. He was told the nearly 20 cars involved in the shoot
were driven to the site with only the driver on board; all the participants were tested every
The production company, MJZ, was scouting an independent service station near the
highway for an electric vehicle shoot. Reservation gas stations and Manor Market were being
scouted. As for the inevitable Super Bowl commercial, Langley heard rumors of one involving
four “recognizable” stars, but no permits have been pulled as of last week.